To me, eucalyptus oil is one of the best essential oils you’ll ever find. It has so many uses. If you don’t want a little bottle of this, I suggest the plant leaves that are sold in a bunch. You can get them dried or fresh, and you can shower with them! Today’s article is to highlight the many uses of eucalyptus, and some are unusual.
People have enjoyed the medicinal benefits of eucalyptus for many years, and there are hundreds of species that grow all over the world. For most people, the scent of eucalyptus promotes feelings of relaxation while opening up breathing passages.
The compound that does the work in eucalyptus is called “1,8-cineole” and it breaks up mucus and reduces spasms in the respiratory tract. This compound has proven clinical efficacy for many diseases including bronchitis, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Now you know why so many people do a steam inhalation of eucalyptus when they have a cold, respiratory virus, sinusitis or wet cough with phlegm. You can also diffuse the essential oil of eucalyptus, or even more simple, take a whiff of it straight from the bottle!
Eucalyptus essential oil is best when used in a diffuser, or via steam inhalation. Sometimes you see a diluted version used in teas and foods as a flavoring. Just want you to know that the flavoring agents are different than pure essential oils, and it is UNSAFE to take pure eucalyptus oil by mouth!
Did you know eucalyptus oil is one of the main ingredients in the most famous product called Vicks® VapoRub? This is an over-the-counter drug that contains a lot of camphor and some eucalyptus too, which treats cough, and muscle/joint pain.
There are many other topical products sold online today that also contain eucalyptus extracts and are used in the same manner as Vicks® but no claims can be made regarding what they treat because they are herbals. I can tell you that these products are very good and they support healthy respiratory function.*
Eucalyptus bundles are sold year round, and it’s easy to find them on Etsy, or at the local floral shop, or even at home improvement stores when in season.
As for the beautiful plant itself, you can buy a bundle easily. I received a eucalyptus bundle (bouquet) from a friend who said she sent it so I could hang it in the shower. Apparently, that’s a thing! People do this all the time. That’s because the hot steam from the shower activates the healing eucalyptus oil compounds especially the 1,8-cineole. If this is too strong for you, remove some of the stems so the bunch is smaller and the aroma is milder.
If you simply do not like this idea, but you still want the benefits of this breathing compound, then just put 5 or 10 drops in a large bowl of hot water. Cover your head with a towel and breathe in the aroma for about 10 minutes. Finally, you can 10 – 20 drops in the bathtub, or you can use a carrier oil like coconut oil to rub some on your skin.
Before I move on, I want to make one important point about 1,8-cineol (also spelled 1,8-cineole and often called eucalyptol). This natural active ingredient is found in many natural items, not just eucalyptus. It naturally occurs in basil, bay leaf, tea tree oil, cardamom, sage, rosemary, camphor essential oil, spike lavender flowers (a type of lavender that grows at low altitudes) and the uterine stimulant herb mugwort.
The Health Benefits of Eucalyptus
No claims can be made for eucalyptus herb per se because it is not a drug, it’s a plant. In the US, claims can not be made for herbals. Therefore eucalyptus does not “treat” any disease listed below. Eucalyptus is an antioxidant that supports healthy mucus secretions.* It also supports already healthy lung passageways.*
Right now, I’d like to speak to the benefits of 1,8-cineol and this naturally-occurring compound which is useful for:
Relieve chest tightness and congestion
Promotes feelings of relaxation
Eases inhalation and breathing
Reduce inflammation in sinus passageways
Help a stuffy nose
Helps with allergies
Improve symptoms of asthma
Aside from the respiratory benefits that are well documented, let’s take a look at some interesting, but lesser publicized medicinal benefits of 1,8-cineol a.k.a. eucalyptol:
1. Pain Relief
A study from 2013 was conducted on people who underwent total knee replacement surgery. The participants who sniffed eucalyptus oil reported less pain than the non-sniffers, and furthermore, the natural analgesic reduced their blood pressure a little. We know that sniffing eucalyptus leaves or showering them can increase feelings of relaxation by binding to the benzodiazepine receptors, GABA-a.
Read about that HERE.
The head pain associated with sinus issues is different than the headaches you get from a migraine. Eucalyptus oil (and also tea tree oil) helps open up the nasal passages and relieves the pain in a way that isn’t accomplished by ibuprofen or migraine drugs. It provides the comfort and relief that isn’t achieved by traditional analgesics, but only if the headaches are due to sinusitis.
I want to caution you that sometimes a headache can be caused by overuse of eucalyptus in a sensitive individual. There was a young man whose headaches were caused by his rub (which contained camphor and eucalyptus). Read about that HERE. Poor kid took all kinds of pills and migraine drugs and nothing worked until the topical rub was discontinued!
Headaches are such a painful issue to deal with, and one of the most common disabling symptoms a person can have. I have such compassion for people who live with headaches! If this is you, please use my search box and type in the word “headaches” because I’ve written extensive articles on the topic of headaches. Here’s a couple of articles:
Get Control of Headaches Once and For All.
Intracranial Hypertension Headaches are Sometimes Misdiagnosed
Headache FREE paperback sold on Amazon
Here’s How Cheese Causes Headaches
3. Heart disease.
Super interesting and promising, eucalyptus (topically applied) was found to reduce hypertrophy in the right ventricle. This action was due to the main component of eucalyptus 1,8-cineole. The animal STUDY s here. The fact is that a simple eucalyptus extract (1,8-cineole) can help improve mitochondrial function in heart cells and restore connexin 43 (Cx43) in heart cells.
If you want to understand more about the Cx43 protein and cardiovascular tone CLICK HERE. If you’re wondering if it can help with left ventricular hypertrophy, that’s a good question. We do not know because this has not been studied yet. If you’re interested in an article about natural anti-hypertensives read, 8 Natural ACE Inhibitors for Heart Health.
4. Skin Cancer
1,8-cineol targets skin cancer cells and makes them retreat. It works along various pathways (which you can read about HERE) and reduces activity of MMP2 and MMP9. That’s good, you want that. It also blocks spread of skin cancer cells, slowing down metastasis. It’s not a wet blanket for cancer, I don’t mean to imply that, but if there’s any new therapeutic approach to helping skin cancer, I think it’s worth honorable mention.
Remember, essential oils and herbal teas, and supplements do not treat any disease, they support good health. So in this case, it’s fair to say that compounds found in eucalyptus such as 1,8-cineol appear to support immune function, cytokine production and skin cell health.* It may promote healthy modulation the mTOR pathway.*
If you’re interested, I have an article HERE about 3 herbal supplements that act on the mTOR pathway.
On the topic of skin health, I’ve written many articles… you may like, Novel Treatments for Chronic Itch, Eczema and Skin Infections
Fun Facts About Eucalyptus.
Eucalyptus trees grow very tall, sometimes up to 50 feet! They’re also called “gum trees” and grow all over Australia where koalas munch on them. In fact eucalyptus leaves are a mainstay in the diet of these cute marsupials! You’ll find it in some mouth rinses to freshen breath and promote healthy gums.
The gorgeous eucalyptus flowers don’t even have petals. The whole bloom consists of hundreds of stamens jutting out of one cone-like bud, and the colors vary from white, red, orange, pink and yellow.
The abundance of stamens means there’s a lot of pollen which is great because very few natural pollinators (bees, butterflies, etc) come near it due to the high concentration of 1,8-cineole! That makes eucalyptus a perfect natural bug repellant! If not having petals isn’t weird enough, the stems of some species are almost square, not round! No one is sure what advantage this offers.
Finally, eucalyptus wood derived from the trees makes for beautiful instruments. It is used to make didgeridoos, a trumpet-like instrument that is used in indigenous Australian ceremonies. It’s also in the acoustic guitar industry, in fact my husband Sam plays a Taylor guitar that has a natural eucalyptus fretboard, with a maple top. So eucalyptus isn’t just for breathing.
There are ways to incorporate 1,8-cineol in your life because it’s everywhere! Eucalyptol can be found in many products, including herbal teas, decongestants, cough suppressants, mouthwash and dental formulas, skin care products, natural candles, special infused Epsom bath salts, and muscle rubs. The pure essential oil is also available if you’d like to diffuse it in your home or office. If you plant to make changes to your daily health regimen, always ask your doctor if it’s right for you.
Aside from using it as a chest rub, or aromatizing it in your home, you may use it to ward off mosquitos and help with dandruff and acne. It’s one of those plants that has many uses, and it makes your home smell a bit like a spa. Keep it on hand in case you catch a cold.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.